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Photo: Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The M. and M. Karolik Collection of Eighteenth-Century American Arts, 39.163
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Chest of drawers

Object number



Maker Unknown


34 1/2 34 17 3/4 in. (87.63 86.36 45.085 cm)



Current location

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Made in Providence, Rhode Island
(view a map of Rhode Island)


Mahogany (primary); chestnut (back boards, bottom board, drawer linings, drawer supports, drawer dividers, battens, kick bars, foot brackets, and glue blocks); pine (drawer divider, drawer supports [probably replaced], and glue blocks)




“A” [script], in chalk on inside back of upper drawer; “1” (?), in chalk, on inside, upper corner of proper-right upper drawer side; “B” [script], in chalk, on interior back of middle drawer; “C” [script], in chalk on interior back of lower drawer; illegible script [possibly “D”], in chalk, on interior of proper-right case side; “1,” in chalk, on interior of bracket, proper-right rear foot; “2,” in chalk, on interior of bracket, proper-left rear foot; illegible chalk script [probably “Bottom”], in chalk, on outside surface of case bottom; “I” and “II,” in chalk, on interior case [probably later]; possible chalk script on the exterior back of lower drawer; "JONES WAREHOUSES/[PROVI]DENCE, R[I]," printed in black ink on sticker, on exterior back of case; MFA, Boston accession number, in red paint, on exterior back of case; old MFA, Boston label, on exterior back of case


John Brown (1736–1803), Providence, Rhode Island. Martha Codman Karolik (1858-1948) and Maxim Karolik (1893-1963), Boston and Newport, Rhode Island, before 1939; given to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1939

Associated names

Maxim Karolik
Martha Codman Karolik
John Brown


The oblong, single-board top has molded front and side edges, rabbeted to receive a one-piece beaded cove molding. It is secured to the case by rosehead nails in a transverse cleat behind the top rail, and by chamfered glue blocks at the front and rectangular glue blocks at the back of the case, and at the full-depth boards, directly under the top, which prevent the top drawer from tipping forward. The case back consists of three horizontal boards half-lapped together and nailed with rosehead and other nails to rabbets in the case sides and to the bottom board. There is a single horizontal chamfered nailing block at the juncture of top and back, and shadows of two others. The single-board case bottom is attached to the case sides with dovetail joints having short, thick-necked pins. Within the case are full-depth drawer supports with chamfered ends, fastened to the case sides with rosehead nails, and small, vertical drawer stops glued into the inside corners. The top and bottom rails and drawer dividers, integral with the cock-beading, meet the case sides in half-blind dovetail joints. The case contains three block-fronted graduated drawers, the upper with one concave and two applied carved shells, the lower two block-fronted. The interior (concave) and the exterior (convex) blocked portions of the lower two drawers are applied. The tops of the drawer fronts are slightly chamfered and connected to their drawer sides by dovetail joints, having large, finely cut pins of slightly varying configurations, with half-pins above and half-pins with grooves below in the upper drawer, and half-pins with rabbets below in the lower drawers. The tops of the drawer sides are arched and slightly shy of the tops of the drawer fronts. There are short kerf marks on the drawer fronts. The tops of the drawer backs are flat. The two-board drawer bottoms are chamfered in front, where they are set in grooves in the drawer front, and at the sides, where they are secured by brads through runners. At the back, they are nailed with brads to the drawer backs above. The front face of the front feet are convex-blocked and volute-carved. Behind each of the bracket feet are vertical blocks attached to the case bottom and flanked by horizontal carved blocks. The sides of the rear feet are ogee brackets, their backs serpentine brackets, set into the grooves in the sides. Examined by P. E. Kane and J. N. Johnson, November 14, 2012; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

See also


Edwin J Hipkiss, Eighteenth-Century American Arts: The M. and M. Karolik Collection (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1950), 66-67, no. 37, ill.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 311, fig. 8.6.
Wendy A. Cooper, "The Purchase of Furniture and Furnishings by John Brown, Providence Merchant, Part 1: 1760–1788," Antiques 103, no. 2 (February 1973): 331, fig. 7.
Gerald W. R. Ward, "American's Contribution to Craftsmanship: The Exaltation and Interpretation of Newport Furniture," American Furniture (1999): 226, fig. 2.